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    Philadelphia Council OKs Steep Tobacco Penalty Increase

    Cigarette retailers in the city will now face a $2,000 fine for selling to minors.

    PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia City Council has presented a strong united front in the battle to stop teenagers from smoking. On Dec. 2, the council voted unanimously to dramatically increase fines for retailers who sell cigarettes or tobacco to buyers under 18 years old.

    The bill, introduced by Councilwoman Marian Tasco, increases those fines from $300 to $2,000, Reuters reported. "There was a need to increase the fine in order to better enforce and deter people from selling to people under the age of 18," said Derek Green, an attorney for Tasco.

    According to a 2009 study by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the City of Brotherly Love has more smokers under the age of 18 than any other large U.S. city. Specifically, the study found that 3.6 percent of Philadelphia residents between ninth and 12th grades smoked cigarettes on 20 out of 30 days, the highest rate among comparable cities. That number shot to 11 percent when data included those who said they had smoked at some point in the last 30 days, Reuters reported.

    The health department study also found that more than a third of young smokers buy their own cigarettes, and more than 75 percent of tobacco retailers are within two blocks of a school. "Despite declines over the last 20 years, rates of youth smoking have plateaued more recently, highlighting the need for continued public health interventions," the report said.

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